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One man layouts operation styles

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One man layouts operation styles
Posted by restorator on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:06 AM

Not sure the best catgeory for this. So I posted in general.

My question is to the "one man", or "lone wolves" out there, and smaller sized layouts, which appears to be many of the people here. I am curious about the styles you use to operate and any differences from large layouts and/or group sessions.

Do you use car cards, waybills, timetables, JMRI or other computer generated system? Do you more often operate a single train from start to end of the run, or start up multiple trains and have meets? Do you run every generated train in sequence or just run whatever you feel like at the time?

I would think there is no "right" or "wrong", only opinions. I am just looking for various styles to consider. After trying car cards for a very short time I found it time consuming to setup, clunky and unrealistic, amd somewhat restrictive to variety. Since then I have been using JMRI operations and have tweaked it all kinds of ways to get traffic and specific cars to flow just like I want and how would expect the real world to work. And most importantly the unpredictablity and suprise of what car and cargo is arriving from staging. I am very happy with it and it works for me, but am I missing out on anything by not doing it another way?

That said, I used JMRI from mostly the beginning stages of the layout when I had only a handful of cars in existence and I suspect that has made it very easy to keep up with the growth to now, about 75 cars in service and dozens of industries. And for large and existing layouts it might be extremely time consuming or difficult to change to, so I am not advocating one system is better than another.

But as I am a one man layout, and "relatively" new to serious operations, I would like to hear others choices and pros and cons of them. Especially JMRI Ops users.

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Posted by Harrison on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:34 AM

When I operate my 4x8 layout by my self, I usually just spot cars in the logical places(example, Box car to the paper mill, ect.) as the switchlist gets boring after a while. but when I have people over to operate, we follow a prepared paper switchlist.  

Harrison

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:44 AM

Well mostly I just run the train in whatever way appeals to me at the moment.  Sometimes I just watch it run around the circle.  Other times I switch cars in and out from the sidings.  But that's for my test layout.  If I ever get the "big one" built, I'll look into doing it differently.

Paul

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:47 AM

This is your layout, so do whatever pleases you!

I have given up on being a "serious" model railroader and have gone back to üplaying with my train set (I hesitate to call it a layout) but , boy, am I having fun doing that!

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

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Posted by Graffen on Sunday, June 24, 2018 12:03 PM

On my last layout I used car cards. The layout was a switching layout, 11' x 1.5'. It had a barge for interchange.

With additional cards for car repairs and other events, it can get quite realistic and a good way to spend time on your layout.

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 12:34 PM

I was going to write an article on exactly this subject, but interest was low.

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Here is (basic simplified) track plan for the STRATTON & GILLETTE railroad. I am not good enough at drawing track plans to make it accurate, but it gets the ideas across pretty well:

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This is the map of the area that layout represents. It is not any specific area anywhere, just a North/South mainline on part of a class 1 railroad that goes into Willoughby. From there there is a local line to Port Mary, which then also goes to Great Divide. There is a West line out of Willoughby to West Manchester:

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All of these towns are represented on the layout.

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The top half of the layout is Willoughby. Trains come into and leave Willoughby from staging via tunnels on either end of the layout. The outer loop connects to nothing and is just display for running passenger trains. The inner loop goes to most of the staging tracks and the yard and engine terminal in Willoughby.

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From Willoghby a "local" can go to Port Mary. In Port Mary a train can be assembled to either go back to Willoughby, or make the local run to Great Divide.

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The local run to great divide will return from staging as a different train. When a train enters staging to West Manchester it will reemberge as the train that went to Great Divide from Port Mary.

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There are no industries in Willoughby to switch. Willoughby is only there to make up trains and sort freight cars. It also changes out locomotives. There will be 8-12 industries on the layout in Port Mary for car destinations.

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The car float in Port Mary, and all of West Manchester and Great Divide are "Universal Industries" that can take any type of freight car. This allows me complete freedom when assembling freight trains on the layout.

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So... operation as a Lone Wolf:

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1: Choose a passenger train to run on the outer loop. This is just fun, and I never plan any actual passenger train operations.

2: Bring in a freight train to Willoughby from staging. Move the locomotive to the roundhouse and set out the caboose.

3: Assemble a freight train for the trip to Port Mary. Run this train to the other side of the layout.

4: Switch the local industries in Port Mary.

5: Turn the locmotive and assemble a train for the trip to Great Divide.

6: Run this train into staging, and take the train out of staging that was already there that represents the return trip from Great Divide.

7: Turn the locomiotve. Switch out the cars on the car float and assemble a train for the trip to Willoughby.

8: Run this train back to Willoughby.

9: Assemble a train for the run to West Manchester.

10: Run the train into staging and bring out the train from staging that actually originated in Port Mary in step 6. This train represents the return trip from West Manchester.

11: Make up a new freight train to run into the main staging tracks.

12: Move that train into the main loop staging tracks.

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That represents the fun steps to running this layout. It is all designed 100% for play value, and nothing else. This is my 6th home layout, and I am pretty sure I have figured out what I want.

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To make sure everything would look the way I wanted, I built the whole layout in 1:1 scale out of carboard and fully scenicked the whole thing.

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This way I knew everything would fit in the space and scenic elements could all be included as planned.

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I took very careful notes of where all track components were located so I could rebuild the actual layout in the arrangement that I proved would work.

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I also laid out the loops into staging and the staging yard thoat using the actual Kato Unitrack pieced that will be used for all the hidden trackage just to be sure the plan was workable.

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Then I laid out the track plan using cardboard and "operated" it using BRIO trains to be sure that the track layout would not be aggravating.

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So to answer the main part of your question on how I will operate the layout by myself. I will just have a sequential list of tasks to perform that include my favorite parts of operation. I will make up and break down trains. Turn and change out locomotives, and run trains to destinations off layout.

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I can add or delete steps as time or interest allows.

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No cards, train orders, manifests, etc. Just the fun of running the trains for some sort of simulated purpose while I listen to my favorite music.

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-Kevin

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Living the dream.

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:09 PM

    I use a car card and waybill system. Trains run in a sequence which was created based on the supply and demand of the waybills. I run one train at a time. The other trains are stopped on sidings or in the staging yard. All of the trains have meets somewhere along the line.
    I don’t feel like car cards and way bills are time consuming. I think it’s part of the game. Draw the cards (waybills) and do what they say. I think it is believable because the trains are all based on the demand created by the waybills.
     I use a seven day waybill system in which every day is different. The waybills are color coded so I know which waybills are for which days. Only the waybills for the first day can be used on the first day. When the waybills run out then the other cars run as empties and are returned to their home road or to the yard to be used another day. Having different days means I don’t re-live the same day over and over. Some industries are seasonal and have more waybills for the certain days and might not have any on other days. And other industries I try to make a little variance from day to day.
     Occasionally I run a special train just because I feel like it. The special trains are from the “historic society” and feature old fashion steam locomotives and antique cars.
    Other trains I run when I feel like it are maintenance of way trains which might include snowplows or ballast hoppers. These special trains add variety to my operations. Log Truck on Wolf MountainWhen it snows in real life I run snowplows. http://www.trainweb.org/lonewolfsantafe/mowrdv.jpgIf there is an earthquake I send out the track inspection car.
http://www.trainweb.org/lonewolfsantafe/sf50a.jpg    Sometimes if there is a major derailment I send out the big hook to do it's job. 

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, June 24, 2018 3:58 PM

This is the way I operate Slate Creek ISL.

Here's a day on the SSRy. The crew fires up #60 a RS-1 and heads for the N&W interchange and picks up the inbound cars and returns to Slate Creek Industrial Park and does the required work the crew takes the outbound cars to the N&W Interchange and returns to SCIP and parks 61 near the office and secures the engine for the night...

After lunch the crew heads over to Lakeside Industrial Park in the company's pickup truck and fires up the S-4( #50) and heads for the CR interchange and returns with the inbound cars and after doing the required work they take the outbound cars to CR.

Upon their returned to LSIP they park #50 by the security office,they shut down and secured #50 for  the night and heads back to SCIP where they clock out and go home..

After finishing SCIP I will start the build on LSIP.

I use a hand written switch list.

A example:

North Shore Polytech

Setout:

44350

342215

Pickup

14231

 

Larry

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Summerset Ry.


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Posted by cuyama on Sunday, June 24, 2018 5:04 PM

Car-cards-and-waybills. Mostly single-cycle waybills.

Works great, plenty of variety, easy to start, self-correcting, no need to "complete" a session, minimal reset.

I used interlocked pre-prepared switchlists for a while, CC&WB works better for me.

It's all about personal preference 

Byron

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Posted by restorator on Sunday, June 24, 2018 5:34 PM

Lone Wolf and Santa Fe

     When it snows in real life I run snowplows.

If there is an earthquake I send out the track inspection car.

   

 

I like that idea of using events of the real world as a random element and reason for extra runnings. Never though of that.

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Posted by bearman on Monday, June 25, 2018 6:58 AM

I use switchlists and usually run one train anywhere from 5 to 7 cars plus caboose and locomotive.  On occasion I have been known to run two and have meets but then operating my layout becomes a little more complicated.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by E-L man tom on Monday, June 25, 2018 10:25 AM

I don't do anything at the moment, as my new layout room is to be built soon.

On my old layout (which presently is disassembled and sits in storage), my simple track plan of a switching layout featured the two towns of West Sandusky and Troubridge. There was a small staging yard where a train was made up (class 1 railroad). The class 1 RR train would back from west of Troubridge east to W. Sadusky and pick up set-outs that the local switcher at West Sandusky would have left the previous day. the class 1 train swaps that cut of cars for the cut of cars delivered. There was a siding for these cars to be spotted and/or set out there. The local switcher at W. Sandusky sorts and delivers and pulls cars at the industries there.

In the mean time, the local locomotive at Troubridge sets out cars from staging onto the interchange track at Troubridge for the W. Sandusky local switcher to sort and deliver cars to the local industries at Troubridge. This small 1.5' x 20' had the capacity for between 25 and 30 cars, which could be taken off the layout and traded out for another set of cars. So, as you can see, there was really no need for any kind of paperwork, just randomly pick and choose the appropriate cars in a consist of anywhere from 4 to 10 cars on the class 1 train bound for W. Sandusky. This was a push-pull operation, so cabooses were mandatory. Even the local W. Sandusky switch job required a caboose when it left to go to Troubridge. The old railroad was simple yet fun. Operating "sessioons" would take between 1 and 1 1/2 hour. 

At this point, I have no idea what kind of track plan I will build. I just know that it will be a small layout but bigger than the old railroad. I have been looking at different track plans but havent decided on anything yet. I'm looking forward to having continuous running, I know that much.

Tom Modeling the free-lanced Toledo Erie Central switching layout.
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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:01 PM

restorator

 

 
Lone Wolf and Santa Fe

     When it snows in real life I run snowplows.

If there is an earthquake I send out the track inspection car.

   

 

 

I like that idea of using events of the real world as a random element and reason for extra runnings. Never though of that.

 

I thought it up after a real earthquake knocked some cars off of the track and knocked over some figures (people).

Two other events are mud slides and wildfires which are both common. A wildfire in the summer or fall means there will be mudslides when it rains in the winter.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by der5997 on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:27 PM

Do you use car cards, waybills, timetables, JMRI or other computer generated system?

No, I'd rather spend the time making my models - and don't have enough prototypical knowledge to really operate any of those methods.

Do you more often operate a single train from start to end of the run, or start up multiple trains and have meets?
Mostly just one train at a time, although I'm DCC enabled. Take for instance my two passenger trains, One is a RDC, the other a three lightweight cars with a GP 15 or 35 loco. I'll run one from one of my 3 stations to the next east, and the other similarly west. But this is not similtaneous, as I'd rather have fun than fret! Frieghts enter the layout from a fiddle yard and drop cars or pick up cars from a small yard imediately off that yard. That train then acts as a road switcher servicing the 3 industries on the layout (counting a loco service track as an industry.) Direction is changed for switching the industries, if necessary, on a reverse loop.
  Do you run every generated train in sequence or just run whatever you feel like at the time?
As I feel like it.

There is also a separate Nn3 section which is DC. This I can only run when not runing on the main N Scale layout. This narrow gauge runs along the longer inside edge of my L shaped "two doors and a bit" plan. BTW, Tinplate Toddler "hesitates to call his a layout" - don't be fooled he is way too modest and although small, it is exquisite!

 

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Posted by Southgate on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:44 PM

As I feel at the time. No paper or cards. The destination of the cars is obvious as they come out of staging on my simple ISL.  Dan

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Posted by gregc on Monday, June 25, 2018 2:51 PM

you may interested in Frank Ellison's  The Art of Model Railroading.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, June 25, 2018 3:48 PM

restorator
I like that idea of using events of the real world as a random element and reason for extra runnings. Never though of that.

Not a big fan of that.  I worked in jobs that dealt with reponses to real railroad problems and quite frankly 95% of the time the result was that stuff stopped.  If you like watching your trains sit there, good plan.  I wrote a three part article in the OpSig "Dispatch office" magazine about things that go wrong ("Thing that go bump in the night").  

My suggestion is "NOML", "not on my layout".  If you want to model a washout, don't model it on YOUR railroad, model it on ANOTHER railroad.  If I have a washout on my layout, stuff stops.  If the PRR has a washout on one of their lines then I can model a detour train where they operate over my layout to get from one interchange around the problem to a different interchange to get on the line.  Plus I can model extra trains of ballast from the quarries to the interchange. 

If I have a derailment on my layout, I have to stop all my regular trains and run a wrecker.  If I have a derailment on an adjoining line of my railroad, I still get to run the wrecker PLUS I run all my regular trains.

Much better to have the problem on another line off your layout, you still can run all your regular stuff plus get additional opportunities.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by Paul3 on Monday, June 25, 2018 4:08 PM

I am definitely not a "lone wolf" as I'm a member of a large club (65+ members), but I am the Operations Chairman.  We currently use 3x5 car cards in 3x4 clear plastic bags (available at Michael's) for pockets.  The waybills are 2.5x2.5, more or less.

The reason why we use car cards is due to the flexibility, which is vitally needed for a club layout.  On a home layout, your car roster is pretty regular.  From ops to ops, you pretty much know what car is going to be on the layout.  At our club layout, I never know which cars will be available because the members add and remove cars constantly.  Car cards allow me that flexibility.  To add or remove a car from the operation, just add or remove the car card.  I can even replace a car with ease just be switching the waybill from one card to another.

If I use JMRI (which I tried), it means that I have to keep track of every single car that's on the layout (and at last count, that exceeded 600 cars).  Every time someone takes a car off the layout or puts one on, I have to update the program.  No, thanks.

BTW, unpredictability and surprise are not realisitic.  Real railroading is rather monotonous.  It's the same thing, day after day.  A local switching crew can pretty much determine which car goes where just by looking at them.  For example, I have a local crew that does an area about 1 mile from my house.  Every time they come down, the spine cars go to the lumber yard, the tank cars go to the foam fabrication factory, and all the boxcars go to the multi-tenant warehouse.  Every day, day after day.  The only thing that varies is the amount of cars.

I will tell you that one of my neighbors had a lone wolf operation that was quite interesting.  He had a layout with one freight yard and a mainline loop (no local wayfreights) that circled his basement.  What he did was create a number of switch lists (like a dozen or so) that listed a freight train's consist in order.  When he wanted to operate, he'd grab a switchlist at random and put the train together.  He'd run it out of his freight yard to his mainline loop, then lap the layout X number of times, with X being the number of stations/towns on the mainline he was modeling.  Say, 8 times or so.  Then he'd come back into his freight yard and put the train away in random order (the cars would never go back exactly the same way they came out). 

If he wanted to run some more, he'd grab another switch list (that listed a completely different train using mostly different cars) and do it again.  There was no clock, no schedule, and the paperwork (once created) never had to be modified or re-created ever again.  Just re-use the same dozen or so switchlists over and over.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, June 25, 2018 4:48 PM

Paul3
BTW, unpredictability and surprise are not realistic.

Paul,You would be surprise what can happen during your run.The train ahead goes into emergency and your  train stops and waits. The DS parks you in a siding and keeps you there until three opposing trains pass you.

You make good time over the road only to be held outside the yard awaiting a arrival track to open.

You may even wait on the boys in MOW to clear or finish their work.

You can "outlaw" in the middle of no where.

Only modelers has perfect runs.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Stay Alert, Don't get hurt  Safety First!"

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Posted by Paul3 on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 10:05 AM

Brakie,
The unpredictability was in reference to the kinds of cars and loads that would show up.  In actual use, railroading is a fountain of unpredictability for all the reasons you've stated and many more. 

But when you were holding down a local job and you showed up for work in the morning, the cars and loads you switch are pretty much the same kinds of cars and loads you switch every day.  I mean, the beer factory you switched out yesterday isn't going to be shipping out turpentine today and carbon black tomorrow.  Sure, the number of cars can change, from zero to a bunch, but the XYZ Factory that makes Brand X isn't going to be doing anything but Brand X as long as it is in business.

Over a course of years the job changes quite a bit as companies come and go, but on a day-to-day schedule the switching is pretty constant.

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 1:40 PM

    It doesn’t matter if trains just sit there because they are not generating any revenue anyway. My railroad is 100% subsidized by The United States of Me, and the losses are written off as entertainment expense. Wink
    Since I am operating alone every train except the current one I am running is stopped ‘in suspended animation’ so having trains stopped while the maintenance crew clears the tracks is no big deal. Sometimes they are working on a siding or on the main next to a siding so other trains can still go through but it just means that the meets will have to take place at a different siding.
    When it is snowing in the mountains I try to run a flanger between trains. I run a spreader once a day, and run the rotary plows once or twice a year. It’s just part of the fun.
    As for the daily routine, factories are pretty much the same thing every day but agriculture is very seasonal. During some months there is no traffic at all but when it’s harvest season then it’s super busy.
   

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by restorator on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 5:32 PM

The "unpredictability" I referenced is, of course, still within the realm of plausibility. I was speaking of things like the regular load of paper to the printer being broken up by the less often load of ink, or a rare load of new machinery. Or the department store warehouse that receives a wide variety of loads, from appliances, to clothes, to books, to general merchandise, along with a small random chance for something like a box load of seasonal christmas decorations coming in for redistribution to local stores. 

No, of course, I would not expect to send coil steel to the newspaper, nor fuel oil to the warehouse, but within the limits of reason, if you have some industries that are not so single purposed like the scrapyard is, it makes it just a little bit more fun and that was the bit of suprise I was referring to.  

And as I have begun to install a GERN franchise, there is reason for another large variety of incoming and outgoing GERN products. In fact, about 3% more.

Yes, in many places in the real world industries can be mundane, but that does not mean I have to suffer with repetition to the point of boring myself to sleep on my own layout either, even if some of the places, like the coal mine, are the same thing, day in and day out.

 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 5:51 PM

Paul3
Sure, the number of cars can change, from zero to a bunch, but the XYZ Factory that makes Brand X isn't going to be doing anything but Brand X as long as it is in business.

Paul,Here's another side of the story of  XYZ beer factory that is overlooked by modelers.

 XYZ can take a local up to  a hour or more to switch depending on the required work and the number of cars and this will include spotting any previous off spot cars to the unloading area..

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Stay Alert, Don't get hurt  Safety First!"

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Posted by restorator on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 6:07 PM
If I use JMRI (which I tried), .... Every time someone takes a car off the layout or puts one on, I have to update the program.  No, thanks.

Not saying one is better than the other, and I can certainly understand your methods on your club layout, but when someone brings a new car to the layout don't you have to now create and print a new car card? Isnt that basically the same thing as updating the (JMRI) program? I can see removal as maybe a bit easier if someone leaves with the car AND takes their card with them, but if they leave the card on the layout its pretty much the same amount of work as either deleting or putting a car "out of service" in JMRI to me.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 9:36 PM

On my "lone wolf", one man small layout, I might just run and watch a train, or I might run a "local", and do road switching on the industries I have, or I might just do switching and set-out, for the local, or the main line train.

On a train cam, I watched a through train, (CN) do some switching, as it dropped off a cut of covered hoppers, and a few center beam lumber loads, to the GLC, in Durand, MI.

Mike.

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Posted by Paul3 on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 11:29 PM

restorator,
If operational realism is important to you, then unpredictibility in loads or cars is just not that realisitc.  Operational patterns change in glacier-like ways; months (or years) of no change, then wham!, something happens all at once when the factory closes (or opens), the crop is in (or out), or a bridge burns down somewhere.  Surprise isn't that regular.

That being said, there are still many things that one can do to surprise yourself on a model railroad.  As an old school BattleTech player myself, I would make a 2d6 table for a pair of dice like this:

2 (3%) - "Snake eyes"; management is watching so work to rule.
3 (6%) - A car is Bad Ordered; set out on nearest R.I.P. track.
4 (8%) - Skill upgrade; flying switches and poling allowed.
5 (11%) - Handbrake doesn't work; must chock wheels.
6 (14%) - Flat switching allowed; can "kick" cars using 0-5-0.
7 (17%) - Consignee requests a car move to another spot.
8 (14%) - Consignee not releasing X cars today (roll 1d6 for X).
9 (11%) - Cars have no air; wait 1 min/car when coupling to pump up.
10 (8%) - Old Brakeman; must stop each time to let him on/off train.
11 (6%) - Turnout is broken; no service to consignee today.
12 (3%) - "Boxcars"; Derailment of X cars (roll 1d6 for X).

So you roll a pair of 6-sided dice and apply the results in whatever way works for you.  I literally just made up that table (the odds are the pecentages listed), so feel free to add your own.  Heck, I'm sure Brakie here could come up with even more examples of stuff like this to make it interesting.  Just remember that "7" is the most common number, and "2" and "12" are the most rare.

There's a fine line between fun and work in our hobby; I try to keep it on the fun side, but the work side can appear all too easily.

Brakie,
Absolutely.  I love having the club local switchers do an "in plant" move (or whatever you call it).  We call 'em "zingers" where a car is simple re-spotted and not picked up and taken back to the yard.  However, many times the operator will simply see it as a pick up and take it away.  When he gets back to the yard with the extra car...he gets zinged.

restorator,
Yes, every car that's being used during an operation session is registered but I only have to do that once.  If I keep a JMRI program set up and going, I have to regularly keep track of what's on the layout.  With our car card system, the owner does that by keeping the card with the car.

With a JMRI-like system, I would print out a inventory of where it thinks all the cars are on the layout and then I would have to go move all the cars on the layout to their proper places.  For each car missing, I would have to go back to the program and mark them as removed, then somehow replace them with other cars (I'm not even sure JMRI will do that).  I would also have to take inventory (by hand) of all the cars that JMRI doesn't know about and add them to the operation roster of the session.

With my car card system, I place the car card against each car, moving cars to their proper place if needed by the waybill.  Each card without a car gets filed away in a card drawer (an old library card catalog set) by type.  Each car without a card gets removed from the layout until the card is found or re-printed.  Then I take inventory of the layout but only by AAR code (XM = boxcar, FB = Bulkhead Flat, TC = chemical tank, etc.).  Using this inventory, then I use a program (like Excel) to make new waybills using the last operation's file (I usually only have to make a few changes here and there).  Then it's print and chop on the papercutter, then stuff 'em in the card pockets.

The specific advantage for me in a large club setting is that I can have a half dozen guys helping me with the car cards.  With a JMRI-like program, it's only a one man operation set up.  It would take far longer for me to use JMRI vs. our car cards.  But again, we're talking about 600+ cars on a 3000+ sq. ft. layout (and we have another 3000 sq. ft. to build).

 

 

 

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • 37 posts
Posted by MapGuy42 on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 12:24 PM

I am developing a sort of deck based card system for the small town switching layout I'm building, to make it more of a game.  Rather than separate car cards and waybills, I'm making cards for every car/industry/cargo combination I care to model, for two decks--west bound and east bound.  A given card indicates a car, its lading, origin, and destination.  Like your typical model railroad waybill it can rotate to its empty state (or from empty to loaded, as the case may be for the industry). Some cars may need to be spotted; others may be through cars meant for the next town.

To start a round, I'll draw five cards from one deck to make up a train, and run it, dealing with cars already spotted as needed, and doing pickups for cars going that direction (spotted on the last round).  Then I run one from the other direction deck, and so on as time and interest allows.

I also plan to include "event" cards in the decks, similar to those in Paul's table, or for the possibility of other traffic, derailments or obstructions, extra through cars, or what have you.

To begin with I'll be printing them out myself on adhesive stock and sticking them to playing cards.  In the long run, when my layout and rolling stock is well established, I may have them professionally printed; there are a few options for getting custom card decks printed.

  • Member since
    November 2017
  • 92 posts
Posted by Bubbytrains on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 3:26 PM

mbinsewi

On my "lone wolf", one man small layout, I might just run and watch a train, or I might run a "local", and do road switching on the industries I have, or I might just do switching and set-out, for the local, or the main line train.

Mike.

I do basically the same on my 4 x 6 1/2 layout. It's a short line or branch Line. Capacity is about a dozen cars maximum. After I get tired of seeing the same cars roam the layout, I swap 'em out with a new set. Every so often I swap motive power. It's nothing elaborate but I have a blast. 

I only spend an average of an hour or two each week working on or playing with my trains. Some weeks I won't even step into my train room.

In the past, on previous layouts, I have used Excel to generate a random switch list or freight train consist.

I'm perfectly happy being a "lone wolf" model railroader. 

Alan

Bubbytrains

  • Member since
    March 2017
  • 129 posts
Posted by Canalligators on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 9:58 PM

My road is a regional quasi-governmental that hosts:
- a for-profiit freight shortline, which connects on the east to a fictional fourth Conrail shared-use area, and to the east with NS
- regional commuter rail
- run-through Amtrak (Empire Service)
- Intermodal freights that exchange with my terminal and run through to the other side.
- We have just implemented transloading, intially of boxcars but later to have bulk, liquids and large loads.

So we have lots of varied operation.

The overal timing has scheduled regional commuter, Amtrak and intermodal trains. They're scattered around the day so that they don't confict.  The local freight runs after the morning commute, then takes a siding at mid-day for a meet with one of the Amtrak trains.

Of these trains, only the local freight and its interchange roads use a car card (envelope, actually) and waybill.  Waybills have 2 or more sides and you just advance to the next side on arrival.  One of the sides may indicate layover.  At the end, you start over at the first side.  These are designed to have an ansynchronous pattern, that is, you should see different cars together on freight runs.  The intermodal terminal has a deck of cards saying how many containers or trailers shall be removed or added for each run.

Genesee Terminal, freelanced HO in Upstate NY
  ...hosting Loon Bay Transit Authority, run through Amtrak and CSX Intermodal

CP/D&H, N scale, somewhere on the Canadian Shield

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • 288 posts
Posted by CNSF on Thursday, June 28, 2018 8:06 PM

I think it might help if you ask yourself what you really want out of your layout. Do you want to simulate the experience of running a real railroad, being a real train crew member? Or do you want to simulate the experience of watching trains in another place and time? For my home layout, which I operate alone, I have decidedly come down on the side of being the watcher, and in fact the layout was designed to support this.

Essentially, it's a short section of a busy single track mainline, with a couple of passing sidings for meets and one depot where the surviving passenger trains still stop. And to change it up a bit, I've got bits of two branch lines and several local industries. So there's some slow-paced operations to balance out the mainline action. I've never used car cards or waybills. I have a bunch of trains made up and parked in staging, and I operate them according to a schedule that represents a day in the life of the railroad. The passenger trains are usually pretty predictable, arriving at least close to schedule, but the freights are more randomly variable, sometimes so much that the order is changed slightly. That way I don't get exactly the same meets every day. When I'm lazy, things get spread out, and meets are few. If I'm feeling ambitious, maybe I'll decide it's been a bad dispatching day, and plug both sidings and then send two more trains out to work their way through. The ideas suggested above for gaming this aspect of the operation are pretty cool.

The local turns working the branchlines and industries are pretty repetitive, as described by other posters, but never identical. Daily, high-volume customers provide a baseload of work, (hoppers for the gravel quarry, boxcars for the grain elevators) but other customers are more sporadic and may only need to be worked once every few days. I only switch up and rebuild the through freight trains every month or two, once I've begun to memorize their consists (my fleet is somewhere between 150-200 cars). I rework the locals between every session so they're a little bit different every day. So, I do sort of have to decide how many empties I'm going to drop at each elevator today, but I do that on the fly, not with cards or a program.

I have a DCC system, and have used its memory capabilities to create pre-programmed turnout routes through the staging yard. I've also used switched infrared detectors to automatically "park" inbound trains in their staging tracks. This makes it fairly easy to control up to 3 moving trains at once, at least on days when I'm observing Rule G and feeling relatively sharp. One of the coolest effects is being able to just watch freights roll by on the mainline while simultaneously working one of the local switching jobs.

It takes about 3-4 hours to work through an entire 24-hour schedule, but I rarely do this all in one sitting.  Instead, I work my way through it in order at whatever pace I feel like.  Some days I just go down and spend 10-15 minutes running one train, and that's enough.

Now, having said all that, if you want a more realistic operating experience, as opposed to just being a trackside watcher, I'd suggest a very different approach.

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